First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.” This is an anecdote that most individuals remember saying growing up, and the majority of individuals believe that this is the normal progression in life. Yet in that childhood song, there is no mention of pregnancy and the adjustment, both positive and negative, that accompanies the transition to parenthood.
Transitions are times when a relationship may be particularly vulnerable because it has to be reorganized to meet new challenges. There appears to be a societal conspiracy to bypass pregnancy and the inherent energy of pregnancy to prepare mind, body and spirit for parenthood. In fact, early research on this topic actually refers to the blessed event as a “crisis event.” This seems to be an inherent contradiction to what is expected by couples.
After all, pregnancy is a time of tremendous change and upheaval in a person’s life. Little remains safe and unaffected by pregnancy; your skin and hair change, your shoe size changes, your teeth and vision may change, your food habits will surely change and your identity and relationship will change too.
Mother Nature is giving us a prelude of what’s to come if we will just tune into her message and be mindful of what she is saying. Life with baby is different but with mindful preparation, you can be ready to receive and welcome the additions that parenthood will add to your life. Taking time during pregnancy to prepare mind, body, soul…AND your relationship will minimize the shock and bewilderment that many new parents experience as they find themselves in the new role of parent and asking themselves, “how did I get here?”
We get in trouble by setting up the expectation that nothing will change. Life will be exactly the same…except now I will have a baby. Rather, I encourage you to spend time during pregnancy allowing yourself to be open and curious about how life may be different with baby.
I give you permission to be excited about the new possibilities that await you as a parent and to mourn your former life. Be open to the gamut of thoughts and emotions that will present themselves to you. No need to judge them or yourself; just be aware of their presence.
Embrace the physical limitations of pregnancy, labor and delivery and the postpartum period. Adjusting expectations will alleviate the guilt new parents feel of “what I should be doing.” Tune into your body. As a blueprint, it will guide and help you navigate the new role of parenthood; replacing board meetings and kitchen detail with rest and healing, bonding with baby, and the daily demands of caring for baby.
Preparing the relationship for baby is easier than you think. It comes down to talk and time or spending time to talk. Creating a nightly ritual of reunion during pregnancy is the first step. 20 minutes that you set aside each night to come together and reunite after the separation of the day. This is your opportunity to sit uninterrupted, hand in hand, with your partner’s undivided attention to discuss the happenings of the day. These daily commitments to connect will safeguard the relationship from the natural distance that a new baby brings to the scene.
The tricky part is that for many couples, pregnancy is a blissful time of connection and love that couples can’t fathom how that connection could possibly change, or erode, after baby. Therefore, there is a reluctance to prepare or do anything different. After all, the relationship is perfect as is. And if it aint broke, why am I fixing it?
I want you to entertain the possibility that the experts, research, and parents who came before you may be on to something.
If they are, there is a strong possibility that having a baby may be a stress to you and your relationship. The mindful and active steps that you take to prepare for life with baby during pregnancy will ease your transition to parenthood and protect your relationship after pregnancy, into parenthood and for a long time to come.
For more of Dr. Alyssa Berlin’s, PsyD, Relationship Post Baby and Parenting Tips, check out her local parenting classes in the Los Angeles area, www.doctorberlin.com. Dr. Berlin is also an official PAM advisor.